Stephen Miller and Donald Trump (Mark Wilson/Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket)

Stephen Miller's white supremacy is no surprise — but it raises the stakes on impeachment and 2020

The Trump regime is a white supremacist enterprise. Will Americans choose to save our multiracial democracy?


Chauncey DeVega
November 25, 2019 12:00PM (UTC)

Like the president he serves, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller is a white supremacist. Miller believes that white people should be the most powerful group in the United States and around the world. He has worked diligently and enthusiastically to advance that goal through public policy.

Miller is not a “white nationalist.” To use such language is to legitimate the ways white supremacists have tried since the 1970s to repackage themselves so as to appear more “mainstream” and “reasonable” in order to win over more white Americans.

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As though more evidence is necessary after three years of Stephen Miller’s influence on Donald Trump’s regime and its unrepentant and enthusiastic cruelty against nonwhites, 900 emails recently obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center offer further proof of Miller’s white supremacist ideology.

In his communications with a former editor of the right-wing website Breitbart, Miller — then an aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions, who went on to become Trump's first attorney general  — advanced talking points from white supremacist websites that advocate eugenics against nonwhites and a general belief in the inferiority of black people and others.

Miller praised the notorious white supremacist novel “The Camp of the Saints” (also a favorite of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon) which depicts nonwhite immigrants and migrants in Europe as subhuman, murderous invaders.

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In these emails Miller also channeled white supremacist talking points about nonwhite immigrants being “invaders” in “white countries” and the premise that white people are somehow being “replaced.”

Writing at the New York Times, Jamelle Bouie observes that "there's no way to spin these emails into something innocuous":

The evidence is overwhelming: Miller was immersed in white power ideology. He was fluent in the language of white nationalism, attuned to its ideas. He was an obvious sympathizer who brought that sympathy to the federal government, where he has a direct hand in making immigration policy and choosing personnel.

For three years, Miller has used his perch to inflict fear and anxiety on refugees, asylum-seekers and unauthorized immigrants. Maybe, if you were charitable to Miller and sympathetic to restricting immigration, you could frame this as a misguided but good faith attempt to pull back from a more liberal status quo. No longer. These emails show that Miller’s views flow from his commitment to racist exclusion and the protection of a white demographic majority.

As a practical matter, Miller views nonwhite people as his enemies. In other words, a senior adviser to the president of the United States is crafting public policy that both directly and indirectly hurts tens of millions of nonwhite Americans. This is a treacherous betrayal of America's multiracial democracy and a direct threat to its future, and provides more evidence that Donald Trump and his regime are illegitimate.

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In response to Miller's emails, more than 100 Democratic members of Congress have called for him to resign. No senior Republican elected officials, to my knowledge, have done the same.

These “revelations” about Stephen Miller’s white supremacist emails are not secondary to the current impeachment inquiry, or somehow coincidental to a rogue regime’s assault on the rule of law and the Constitution.

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Indeed, Miller’s emails are better understood as huge flashing road signs that illustrate how racism and the ideology of white supremacy made Trump’s presidency possible and continue to fuel the Republican Party's fascist and authoritarian crusade against American democracy.

There are many examples. Social scientists and others have shown that white racism in combination with nativism and hostile sexism (and assisted Russian interference) that gave Donald Trump the White House in 2016.

Vladimir Putin’s spies and other agents launched a sophisticated psy-ops campaign, via social media and other means, to exacerbate racial tensions. The goal was to mobilize Trump’s voters and demobilizing those more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton.

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Research shows that Trump’s racially intolerant white voters reject the very idea of democracy if it means that white people will no longer be the dominant and most powerful group in America. A large proportion of Trump’s voters are racial authoritarians.

From the post-civil rights era onward, the Republican Party and movement conservatives have embraced racism and white supremacy as a dominant strategy for winning elections and then keeping and expanding power.

Republicans are more likely to be racist and generally more hostile towards nonwhites than are Democrats. Racism and white racial resentment are central to conservatism as a system of motivated social cognition.

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In his recent book “Post-Racial or Most-Racial?” political scientist Michael Tesler shows in exhaustive detail how white racial resentment and racial backlash against Barack Obama now structures the partisanship and other political values of Republicans and right-leaning independent voters.

Political polarization is not “race neutral.” In reality, the increasing extremism of the Republican Party, as manifested through asymmetrical political polarization — from the end of the civil rights movement to the backlash against Obama and then the election of Donald Trump — is a function of white racism and white racial resentment. Negative partisanship and political tribalism, where politics is viewed not just as a reasonable difference of opinion between fellow citizens who share common values but rather as a referendum on their human worth and personhood, has also been fueled by white racism and an increasing hostility by Republicans and other conservatives toward the increasingly multiracial and diverse Democratic Party.

Today’s Republican Party is opposed to multiracial democracy and the full and equal citizenship rights of nonwhite people, especially black Americans. Through gerrymandering, voter suppression — both legal and otherwise — and other tactics, the Republican Party has made itself increasingly immune from political accountability for its embrace of white supremacy and racial authoritarianism. In essence, the post-civil rights era Republican Party is the United States’ largest white racist organization.

Furthermore, this racialization of white group interests in the Age of Trump is increasingly central to white identity and political decision making.

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Political scientist Ashley Jardina explained this to Salon in a July 2017 interview:

The idea behind "white identity politics" is that there is a subset of white voters and/or white Americans in general who feel a sense of attachment to their group. They feel a sense of solidarity. They think that their race and their racial identity is important to who they are. Their "white identity" influences how they see and view the political world. Tied up in that sense of identity is a belief that whites are losing out in the United States, their status and power is somehow under threat.

Subsequently those white people who manifest white identity politics are responding to that perception in a political way by supporting policies and candidates who they view as protecting their racial group and preserving its status…. Donald Trump is very much the candidate of white identity — but white identity mattered before Trump came on the scene….

Yes, white identity is still part of the system of racism because it's about wanting to maintain their power at the top. By implication, this means that people of color necessarily cannot be equal with white people. This type of white identity is about maintaining a system of inequality.

In total, the Trump regime’s corruption and lawlessness is made legitimate in the eyes of the Republican Party’s leaders, the right-wing propaganda news media and Republican voters because they believe themselves to be “defending” America from the Democratic Party and its nonwhite supporters.

To this point, Adam Serwer of the Atlantic observes: “The Republican Party has responded to the increasing diversity of the electorate with an accelerating intolerance for ethnic and religious minorities, and with elaborate schemes to disenfranchise rival constituencies and rig election rules to its advantage. Crucial to this effort is its conviction that the Republican electorate is the only one that can confer legitimacy on elected officials, and that the party’s political opponents are no longer wrong but fundamentally illegitimate, faithless usurpers with no right to determine the direction of the country. This has manifested in the quasi-religious dogma that Trump represents the will of Real America, and therefore defiance of his will is itself a form of treason.”

Leading Republicans know that democracy is their enemy precisely because the policies they want to force on the American people are so unpopular. Perhaps even more important, because the Republican Party is organized around white racial tribalism, Republican leaders, their news media and their voters view multiracial democracy, embodied (at least in their eyes) through the Democratic Party, as an existential threat.

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Writing in the Guardian, civil rights law professor Carol Anderson summarizes the Republican Party and movement conservatism’s commitment to racial authoritarianism and what has been called "Herrenvolk democracy":

The party of Lincoln’s electoral cul de sac was mapped out by the Republicans’ contempt for democracy and, especially, fear of the broader American public’s access to the ballot box. Despite numerous warnings about the consequences of doubling down on racism, homophobia and misogyny in an increasingly diverse and liberalizing nation, the Republican party ignored those broadsides and chose, instead, to hollow out, shrink and tilt the electorate as far to the right as possible.

“I don’t want everybody to vote,” bellowed Paul Weyrich, the co-founder of the conservative Heritage Foundation. Those marching orders were dutifully supported by a series of supreme court decisions that gutted the Voting Rights Act, sanctioned voter roll purges in defiance of federal law and ignored the racism embedded in extreme partisan gerrymandered districts.

As a result, a range of Republican-sponsored voter suppression policies now scars the American landscape in a concerted effort to politically silence the majority of the people. Those sheer numbers and the Republican party’s hardcore refusal to jettison white supremacy as its operating code has led to policy choices that exacerbate the range of crises facing the nation.

Anderson notes that as of July 2018, even with all the Republican efforts at voter purges, “there were 12 million more Democrats than Republicans in the United States. Democrats are 40% of registered voters compared with just 29% listed as Republicans. In fact, the percentage of Americans who identified as members of the Republican party dropped by 5% in four short years. And independents lean overwhelmingly toward Democrats.”

The Trump regime’s embrace of white supremacy and racism is not limited to the United States. It is also international. In 2018, this administration withdrew the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council. It has pushed for language condemning racism and nationalism to be removed from official UN documents — language that has been present for decades.

In what would in more normal times be a stunning admission, the director of America’s National Counterterrorism Center recently admitted that under the Trump regime the United States is now viewed by the world as an exporter of white supremacist terrorism. This report is from Yahoo News:

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After an upsurge in racially motivated attacks around the world, other countries are beginning to regard the United States as an exporter of white supremacism, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said Friday.

“For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology,” Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told an audience in Washington, D.C. “We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That’s a reality with which we are going to have to deal.”

Travers said there is now a global movement of what he termed “racially motivated violent extremism,” or RMVE (pronounced “rem-vee”), fueled by a wide variety of motivations and facilitated by social media and other online communications.

“A large percentage of RMVE attackers in recent years have either displayed outreach to like-minded individuals or groups or referenced early attackers as sources of inspiration,” he said.

While the Trump regime has brought America low and sacrificed the country’s prestige and honor abroad — in apparent supplication to Vladimir Putin and Russia — it can claim one “success.” Under Donald Trump and Stephen Miller’s “stewardship,” America is now viewed as the world leader in exporting white supremacist terrorism and violence.

Such an outcome is foundational, not coincidental. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is viewed by many white supremacists and other members of the New Right as a beacon for maintaining global white power and as a champion against a more cosmopolitan and diverse present and future. To the degree that the Trump regime aligns America’s interests with those of Russia, it is doing the work of global white supremacy.

Stephen Miller should of course be forced to resign. There should also be public hearings in Congress about Miller's role in the Trump regime and the policies he inflicted on the country. Miller also represents a much larger problem, beyond systemic and institutional racism in the United States.

The Trump regime has nurtured a permissive environment that welcomes and empowers white supremacists such as Miller, Bannon, Michael Anton and others, at both senior levels and as middle or lower-level bureaucrats. This problem extends to the courts, police and other law enforcement and the military. Congressional hearings could use Stephen Miller as an entry point to a larger discussion of white supremacist infiltration at all levels of the United States government.

In the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, should Democrats include the full panoply of his crimes and other unpresidential behavior — encouraging white supremacy and other political violence; crimes against humanity, as demonstrated by his regime’s treatment of nonwhite migrants; betrayal of the presidential oath of office; violations of the emoluments clause and abundant corruption — or should they instead go small and just focus on abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the Ukraine scandal?

Ultimately, those questions will reflect on how the Democratic Party’s leaders balance political expediency with principle.

At the Inquirer, Will Bunch summarizes this dilemma:

The evidence is piling up that Trump’s political extortion ploy on Ukraine was bribery, an extreme abuse of power, and a violation of his sacred oath to protect the best interests of the United States. That alone merits his impeachment (which will happen), his removal (which probably won’t) and a harsh judgment from 2020 voters (when it doesn’t). But given the sweep of this president’s assault on both the Constitution and on human decency, it almost feels — and I’m hardly the first to write this — like busting the murderous Al Capone for income tax evasion.

Capone wasn’t charged with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and Trump won’t be impeached for ripping toddlers away from their refugee mothers and fathers, or for locking tens of thousands of kids at the border in cages or squalid detention centers. Even worse, confirmation of something awful yet long suspected — that the man shaping U.S. immigration policy is a fairly unabashed white supremacist — barely caused a ripple.

Yet this unconscionable assault against the tired, the hungry, the poor, and their defenseless children on the southern border is the very worst crime of Donald Trump’s presidency, an offense against humanity. It’s good to see our elected officials finally holding this president accountable for violating his oath when he put his hand on that Bible on January 20, 2017.

Holding Trump and Stephen Miller accountable for violating the words inside that Bible — to love thy neighbor — will have to wait on a higher authority than Congress.

Trump’s impeachment and the 2020 presidential election offer a referendum on what type of country America is — and what kind it will be in the future. The Democrats will impeach Donald Trump. Republicans in the Senate, in all likelihood, will not convict him. Trump and his cult will claim victimhood and be further empowered in their assault on democracy, the rule of law and human decency.

This leaves the American people to decide on Election Day 2020 whether they are prepared to save the country’s multiracial democracy or abandon it to fascists, racial authoritarians and their dream of a 21st-century American apartheid where making America "great again" is an updated version of “Whites Only.”


Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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